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Revising/Drafting/Editing With Wikis

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Students engage with and revise each other's texts using a wiki platform
Image Credit: 

Eric Detweiler

Brief Assignment Overview: 

Students engage with and revise each other's texts using a wiki platform. Allows students to consider the various ways of composing a summary of a single text.

Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

For my RHE 306 (introductory composition) course, I created a course wiki to which students posted numerous in-class activities and homework assignments. I find wiki particularly advantageous for group activities, as students can create pages that all group members can edit/revise/view/etc. (which GoogleDocs can also allow, but in a different manner). A wiki can thus be a useful space for foregrounding the collaborative nature of writing. Also worth noting is the “page history” feature of PBWorks, the wiki platform I use, which can allow both students and you, the instructor, to see how a particular page developed.

This lesson plan provides a way for students to think carefully about the rhetorical choices they make when summarizing a text by collaborating on the creation of a trio of wiki pages. The lesson plan is also designed to help students learn the difference between drafting, revising, and editing—three stages of the writing process we have already discussed as this lesson plan unfolds.

Required Materials: 

Computers with internet access, preferably one per student; a course wiki (as mentioned above, I use PBWorks).

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

I divide students into groups of 3.* Each group is assigned one chapter from the RHE 306 first-year forum book, and each member of that group is responsible for composing a “research summary” (RS) of their assigned chapter. (RSs are one-page summaries of a source’s argument, and are ideally free from the summarizer’s opinion about that argument.) I have students compose their RSs as Word documents, then copy and paste them into the body of a wiki page. I also ask them to choose a distinct color for their wiki-page summaries. Below is a screenshot of a student’s RS. The student has turned it blue using the bottom-left button in the formatting toolbars above the text window.

Once each student's research summary (RS) is drafted and uploaded, I assign her/his RS to another group member to revise—for instance, if Jaime, Harold, and Terry are a group, Jaime is assigned to revise Terry’s RS, Harold is to revise Jaime’s, and Terry to revise Harold’s. I ask each student to make her/his revisions in a different color than the original draft of the RS.

Finally, I reassign the revised RS to the third group member, who is charged with editing (i.e., Terry drafts, Jaime revises Terry’s draft, and Harold edits the revised draft).

Since deletions obviously don’t have a color, I also have students record any removed phrases, words, punctuation, etc., at the bottom of the page.

The timing on this whole process can differ—you can assign it as homework and have each stage due on a different day, or you can have the revision and editing stages take place during a class meeting.

After the editing work is done, I have the original drafter look at her/his revised and edited RS. I then let the groups have internal discussions about how they made the choices they did at each stage: Why did Harold choose to quote different lines than Jaime during his drafting process? What led Terry to cut the first line of Harold’s second paragraph? If you want something tangible, you can have students write out their reflections: Where did their group members original drafts differ? What rhetorical choices did their group members make that led to these differences? What differences in opinion were revealed in what group members chose to revise about each other’s RSs, and did any revisions seem especially effective? Etc. Broadly speaking, I like these questions to get students thinking about writing—even summary—as a rhetorical process rather than a fill-in-the-blanks sort of task.

*If the total number of students in the class isn't divisible by three, I'll create groups of four, but each group member will only engage with two other group members' summaries as revisor/editor.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

At this point in the semester, my students are already familiar with the wiki and the process for creating wiki pages. We have also discussed the differences between drafting, revising, and editing, which I roughly define as the following:

  • Drafting: The creation of new written material—getting words on the page for the first time, similar to invention.
  • Revising: Working with the words you’ve already composed (moving paragraphs or sentences around, rewriting phrases for clarity, deleting extraneous sentences/paragraphs/pages), which can include some new writing (scrapping and recomposing your introduction, or adding a new sentence at the end of a paragraph to better establish that paragraph’s purpose).
  • Editing: Cleaning up/polishing your grammar, spelling, citation, etc. (removing commas, adding in-text citations, changing “th” to “the”).

We will have also already covered methods of forwarding a source’s argument, particularly the relative merits of summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation.

Instructions For Students: 

Relatively similar to the full instructions above--mostly, assign the students the chapter summary as homework in advance, have them post it to the wiki before class begins the day of the activity, and put them into (ideally) groups of three. From there, instruct them to revise one of there group member's summaries using a particular color of text, the edit the third group member's summary with yet another particular color. At the end, have them discuss why they made the specific revision and editorial choices they did and discuss what they found particularly effective about the group's summaries.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

I generally grade this assignment on a pass/fail basis—as long as the student completed all three stages, they get credit.

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students do occasionally find the process tedious, especially by the editing stage. As an alternative, the original drafts could be shorter. Really, one paragraph of drafted material could be enough given how extensive this activity can become.

Course Description: 

Rhetoric 306 is a course in argumentation that situates rhetoric as an art of civic discourse.  It is designed to enhancestudents' ability to analyze the various positions held in any public debateand to advocate positions effectively.  Students work in this course willhelp them advance the critical writing and reading needed to succeed in coursesfor their major and university degree.

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